Everybody is Picking on Oakland. "Every time Chuck Tanner opens his mouth he says the A's have won the pennant." Kansas City Outfielder Amos Otis said. "Doesn't he know they are nine games behind? The A's have been dead ever since Reggie Jackson left." Oakland's answer was a 9-2 victory over the Royals in a 3-3 week and some harsh words in return. "Those statements will come back to haunt Otis," Tanner said. "Maybe when the going gets tough he'll quit like he does every year."
Chicago followed the Royals into Oakland, lost two of three, but also left unimpressed. "All they can do is run," said White Sox Manager Paul Richards. "They're not a good hitting team." The A's did not get any hits at all during a 2-1 loss as John Odom and Francisco Barrios combined to pitch a sloppy no-hitter in which they allowed 11 walks.
For all their criticism, neither Kansas City (3-3) nor Chicago (2-5) was exactly burning up the league. Another big talker from the Royals, Pitcher Al Fitzmorris, outdueled Nolan Ryan of California 4-0, then said, "I'm really proud of the fact that I'm as good a pitcher as he is, maybe better. You look at a guy like him and you think he's a little foolish. He always makes the same mistakes. He fools around and gets behind, then has to come in with his fastball. Everybody knows it and can wait for it." Fitzmorris promptly was bombed in his next start by Texas, while Ryan was shutting out the White Sox on three hits. California (4-2) got more good pitching from Frank Tanana, who beat the Royals 2-1 on four hits, and Dick Drago, who won twice in relief.
Red hot Minnesota (6-2) ran off its second five-game winning streak in two weeks and moved above .500 for the first time since June 13 by edging Oakland 6-5 on Dan Ford's two-run homer. The Twins took over third place, passing Texas (2-5), which had lost 10 of 12. Bert Blyleven got the only Ranger wins, beating the Twins 3-0 and Kansas City 4-2.
KC 61-39 OAK 53-49 MINN 51-50 TEX 48-52 CHI 45-56 CAL 45-59
It was not a good week for New York (2-5). but even after three straight losses to Baltimore, Manager Billy Martin was not worried. Secure with his double-digit lead. Martin bragged, "A plane wreck or a bus blowup is the only way we could lose to the Orioles."
That's probably true, since Baltimore (5-2) is much closer to sixth place than to first. All the Orioles' wins came in succession. Ross Grimsley pitched two of them, and Jim Palmer and Rudy May had impressive complete-game victories. While Grimsley claimed. "My best years are ahead of me," Palmer was saying his time has come. "I guess it sounds immodest to say you're pitching like you're supposed to," he said immodestly, "but I am." May was not doing badly, either. His 1-0 six-hitter was his second shutout of Detroit this season.
The loser in that game was Mark Fidrych, who was done in by an unearned run. It was only his third defeat of the year, and the Tigers have failed to score in all of them. Detroit (5-3) was on the happy side of a 1-0 score when Dave Roberts evened his record at 10-10 by five-hitting Milwaukee. The Brewers' (3-4) best effort was Bill Travers' three-hit, 3-1 win over Baltimore.
Indian Manager Frank Robinson has a fresh idea. Cleveland (4-6) leads the majors in relief appearances, and Robinson thinks the Indians might lose that dubious honor if he began starting his relievers. "I wouldn't be averse to turning the whole thing around," he says. "Let the bullpen become the starters. But the fans wouldn't let me do it. They'd be calling for a white jacket for me. Otherwise I'd prefer to do something when things continue to go wrong, even if it is unorthodox." One thing that went right was Dennis Eckersley's 7-2 victory over Milwaukee in which he went the distance and struck out 12.
Although it was a little late to mean anything, fifth-place Boston (4-4) swept a doubleheader from New York, 4-2 and 6-4. The same day The Boston Globe editorialized that the Red Sox are "without pride." All of them, that is, except Ferguson Jenkins, who won twice and served champagne after beating the Indians for his 200th career victory.
NY 61-38 BALT 51-49 CLEV 49-50 DET 48-51 BOS 46-54 MIL 43-54
New York's hitters and fielders took the week off, leaving the pitchers to do all the work. As a result, the Mets lost five of seven games, allowing only 14 runs but scoring three fewer. "You can't expect our pitchers to strike everybody out," said Joe Torre. But it certainly would help.
Ed Kranepool, who admits he is not an outfielder, gave Montreal a hand in defeating Jerry Koosman 2-1 in the ninth by misplaying a possible out into a ground-rule double. Mickey Lolich also lost 2-1 when the Met infield turned a nice double play in the 10th inning of a 1-1 game with Pittsburgh—while the winning run was scoring from third. Jon Matlack's turn to lose 2-1 came when Bruce Boisclair helped the Phillies to their runs by letting a playable ball fall untouched in short center. But perhaps the most frustrating experience was Tom Seaver's. After shutting out the Pirates for 10 innings, he sat down for a pinch hitter, then watched Reliever Ken Sanders give up a game-winning homer to Richie Hebner in the 13th.
Pittsburgh (4-2) gained another overtime victory when Manny Sanguillen's bases-loaded single in the 13th beat the Expos 4-3.
Montreal (5-2) got revenge the next day 7-6, thanks to five Pirate errors. Reliever Dale Murray earned the victory with his fourth shutout appearance of the week. Earlier he had pitched flawlessly in the second game of Montreal's first doubleheader victory of the year, a 2-1 and 3-1 sweep of the Cubs.
Nevertheless, Chicago (4-4) was able to move within a game of St. Louis (1-4) by beating the Cardinals 7-6 and 6-2. To pick up his team's sagging fortunes. Cardinal President August A. Busch Jr. made a rare appearance in the locker room to meet with the players. The Cards said they were impressed—but they still lost three straight after their brush with Busch.
Ollie Brown's grand slam in a 13-7 win over Pittsburgh and Tim McCarver's run scoring single in a 3-2 victory against Chicago led Philadelphia to four wins in seven games. Dick Allen went on the disabled list with a bad shoulder after being AWOL for three days.
PHIL 67-32 PITT 56-44 NY 52-52 ST. L 42-56 CHI 43-59 MONT 34-61
One of the season's biggest mysteries is the success that San Francisco (4-2) has enjoyed against Cincinnati and Los Angeles. Last week the Giants won four of five against the division's top two teams and ran their season record against the Reds and Dodgers to 13-6. Against the rest of the league San Francisco is 33-52.
It seems every Giant is at his best when the opponent is Cincy or L.A. Revitalized Darrell Evans hit a home run and two singles in a 9-4 victory over the Reds, and John D'Acquisto followed that with a five-hit shutout. Against the Dodgers, Randy Moffitt saved a 5-3 victory with five innings of scoreless relief, and Bobby Murcer homered in the four-run first inning of a 6-3 triumph. That was all the support John (The Count) Montefusco needed for his 10th victory against nine losses.
Otherwise, Cincinnati (6-2) did well as Fred Norman and Gary Nolan both won twice and Pete Rose led off successive games with homers. Johnny Bench missed three games, but had eight hits in only 19 at bats. Ed Armbrister came off the bench to crack two homers and two singles, score three times and drive in two runs during a 12-1 stomping of the Padres.
Just about everybody was beating San Diego (1-7), which has lost 19 of its last 26 games. Reliable Randy Jones got the week's only win by a 2-1 score over Houston and now has 18 victories.
Beating the Astros is no small feat these days. Houston (5-2) swept its fifth double-header of the year, 2-1 and 9-6 over Atlanta, as Jose Cruz rapped five hits and scored five runs. The two victories gave the Astros their most successful July ever with a 20-11 record.
Atlanta (2-4) helped some other people to reach milestones. The Reds' Nolan picked up his 100th career victory against the Braves, and the Dodgers' Don Sutton got his 2,000th career strikeout and his fourth straight win in a 6-2 decision over Atlanta. Phil Niekro finally turned things around for the Braves, driving in four runs and pitching a 7-2 victory over the Dodgers. Then Andy Messersmith, who "felt stronger and threw better than I have in a long time," defeated Houston 3-2.
Sutton was not the only pitcher for Los Angeles (2-3) to perform superbly. Doug Rau allowed only six hits in shutting out the struggling Padres 1-0.
CIN 66-38 LA 55-46 HOUS 54-52 SD 49-56 ATL 46-56 SF 46-58
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
FRED NORMAN: The Cincinnati lefthander increased his won-lost record to 10-2 and decreased his earned run average to 2.27, best among National League starters, by beating San Francisco 9-3 and San Diego 12-1.